In over the six years that I have been in full-time employment, my current job is my first job in the public sector. I was quite shocked with the workplace culture and office politics upon resumption in January 2016. Since then, I have learned, adjusted and continued to grow and I am happy to help others do the same.
Recently, I was nominated to attend a conference; while I had made preparations to attend, I got a call to say I had been replaced by a senior colleague. I was hurt and tried to explain why I should still go. I decided to attend the conference regardless and saw it as an avenue to invest in myself (self-development), and I am glad I did.
You would be shocked if I told you this senior colleague did not attend the conference. After the event, I networked and moved on. Although this sounds like something I did effortlessly, it is essential to say that I was not always like that.
If you have a great job, I mean, you can see yourself in the future of your present company, your total emolument is good and all that good stuff, but the office politics seem to be dulling your ‘shine’, then this article is for you.
In the past three years of my service in the public sector, I have practised these and they have helped me stay progressive and focused. I recommend them to you:
Set career goals for yourself
Asides your organisational goals, you need to identify where you see yourself 5 to 10 years from now. Setting career goals for yourself informs your disposition to work and your general outlook in the workplace. One of the things goal setting does for you is to recognise that your current workplace is not an end – it is a means to an end. Your goals propel you to make the right decisions regardless of how you feel. My vision to attract global opportunity spurred me to attend that conference irrespective of how ‘cheated’ I felt. It made me see it as an avenue to develop myself. That is what having a goal does for you: it reminds you of the bigger picture (always).
Consciously build the right mindset
Your mindset is how you are conditioned to perceive what goes on around you. You need to understand that office politics is not peculiar to you; it happens in a lot of corporate environments. That is why you should not seek a pity-party or play the victim. This can be difficult, especially if you believe that they are out to witch-hunt you. Choose to see that whatever happens is a potential opportunity. This way, you stay motivated.
Stay away from negative energy
Energy spreads like wildfire – particularly negative ones. This can be as a result of the company you keep or the kind of conversation you allow around you. What you take in determines what comes out. If you allow negative energy, you will give negative energy: garbage in, garbage out. Avoid office gossip, cut-down on chit-chat that goes beyond work. Negative energy can leave you more depressed. Don’t be a party to it.
Build your personal brand in the workplace
While I entirely agree that ‘personal-brand’ is over flogged, I cannot overemphasise its importance. Building a personal brand at work is deciding how you want to be perceived at work and tailoring your actions accordingly. Advisably, it is good to develop your own brand around your area of strength. This would make it effortless and keep you motivated.
At my workplace, one of the things I am known for is my excellent writing skills. Recently, a call for entries to an essay competition was announced and while I was still reading the mail, about three of my colleagues asked if I had seen the call for entries because they knew it’s the kind of thing I like and do well at. That right there is my brand (professional and academic writing) speaking. In response, I submitted an entry for the competition. My brand has made some perceive me as a ‘nerd’ and honestly, I have owned it unapologetically. How did I ‘market’ this brand of mine? I offer to do peer review for my colleagues. I share findings I have read about in our industry and I ensure that my writing reflects my strength through my choice of words.
Be emotionally intelligent
The backbone of emotional intelligence is boundaries. Being self-aware of your emotions and that of your colleagues will require you to create and respect boundaries. Keep things at work professional. Stay diplomatic in conversations. Being confrontational does not always pay.
Engage in aggressive self-development
Guys! This has got to be one of my favourite points. It puts you in the driver’s seat of your career, and not at the mercy of anyone or your institution. When you catch this, you will be liberated and empowered. Because of the drama and politics happening around you, you need to continue to evolve, learn and develop your skills. You don’t want to be caught on the excuse of under-performance. Be the staff that enrols in courses and training, thereby becoming a resource to your colleagues and your institution. Remember that whatever form of self-development you do, it is for you. No one can take it away from you.
Did you find these tips useful? Please share other helpful tips for surviving amidst workplace politics.